People love their pets. Sixty percent of American homes house an animal. Like humans, pets seem to be omni-present in the lives of their caretakers, without an official invitation. Pets often do not know why they are here any more than we do, although we both are sometimes absentmindedly present and dumbfounded, albeit together. Two peas in a pod…
Pets come in all shapes and sizes, with happy eyes, moist snouts, flappier ears than us that may pick up the otherwise imperceptible, and gaping mouths with tongues that often lick us a little too sloppily (although with loving intentions, despite our occasionally subsequent, after-smell.) They are cozy on the shared pillow, as if we (nor they) could never imagine their belonging anywhere else.
In short, pets provide companionship that makes lonely, isolated people approximate the shared happiness that could well occur between humans, if only we would allow it. I do not know whether this is a sad commentary on how little people seem to seek true love with one another or how pets offer indubitable, virtually unconditional love that is difficult to contradict.
Special companions in our lives, even when animals, make people want to live for the sake of the furry critters. Pets lower blood pressure, provide joy and happiness, and provide a companion, especially when times are a little ‘ruff’. Pets also foster a state of physically-induced equilibrium. They increase cardiovascular health by requiring caretakers to exercise, groom, and feed them. Especially older folks, whose relatives and friends may be distant, may benefit from the admiration of pet companions.
The Minnesota Stroke Institute’s study finds that owners of cats for more than 10 years have a 30% lower risk of heart attack. The researchers estimate comparable decreases of heart attacks for canine owners. Pets can support their owners’ health in other ways too: certain dogs can predict when their owners have bladder cancer, as well as predict human epileptic seizures and offer assistance to victims.
Pets are fun to play with. They offer us reciprocal affection and sometimes rare emotional validation. Pets give people a reason for being and we give them good reason for wagging along with us. Needless to say, the 41 billion dollar pet industry is not without immense human health benefits.